Anubis – Hitchhiking to Byzantium
Anubis – Hitchhiking To Byzantium (2014)
Reviewed by Mark Nagy
Inside every prog nerd there are two loves. The first is for groundbreaking, nuanced, and well-crafted music that challenges them as a listener, while offering something unique. The second: for just how awesome those things sounded when they first really started to happen back in the 70s, or for certain styles, early 80s. Australian neo-progressive rock band Anubis, in many respects, is an attempt to recapture nostalgia for older styles of neo-prog, drawing particularly on IQ and some elements of Marillion. There are also some more traditional prog elements throughout (A flute solo, which is only and always a Jethro Tull tribute), as well as some synth patterns that sound pretty standard for a legion of Pink Floyd imitations that flooded the 90s.
While it’s not so absurdly steeped in the traditional prog sound palette as some, Anubis is still leaning more on the past than the future. As well they should, for the band’s grasp of the past is stronger than its vision of the future is compelling. Anubis is great at channeling peaceful neo-prog sounds, and I enjoy that quite a bit. There are moments though, like on “A King With No Crown”, where the vocals are a jarring contrast in tone. Not the kind of contrast that I compliment either. Just…. jarring. Much of my issue with this album lies along these lines: the attempts that Anubis makes to be more distinct that fail to take off.
There are other hiccups along the way. Taking some of the synths on “A Room With a View” seriously was a bit of a challenge because there was such an overbearing Dream Theater moment in the intro. But overall, it’s such an excellent song that I’m willing to forgive those hiccups. Robert Moulding’s voice is something to cling to throughout, as he is an excellent singer whose voice was born for this kind of music. When much of the album is being carried, in a sense, by vocal melodies and lyrics, having skilled delivery is key. Still, underneath the issues, this is a predominantly good album.
Anubis has ambitions for greatness, and I can’t say whether or not those are being fully realized, but this is still completely sufficient neo-prog when that’s all it’s trying to be. Hitchhiking To Byzantium is emotionally gripping and instrumentally complex, while the clean tones allow enough room, sonically, for all of that to occur. I wish I felt more gripped by the music, but there seems to be a lot of under-utilized talent, and the result is only above average when I want to to be more than that. It’s sufficiently well executed neo-prog, but the missteps are frustrating, and I can’t help but feel like I haven’t seen the full potential of Anubis
3.25 // 5